NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet wants to shake up school hours – here’s what it could look like

The 9am school bell forms the basis of thousands of family routines across Australia.

But if New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has his way, that could at least be overhauled in his state.

Yesterday, as he announced the creation of a group of female economic experts to guide government policies, he called for ‘breakthrough ideas’ to break down structural gender barriers.

Shaking up the school day might be one.

“In my opinion, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. doesn’t work,” he said.

“You also have before and after school challenges, you have child care issues and you have early childhood education.”

The prime minister says traditional school hours no longer work.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

One thing driving any potential change is the juggling act that working parents have to manage when it comes to school hours.

The Prime Minister and his wife Helen have six children with a seventh on the way.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos dismissed the idea as a “disposable statement”.

“Student support is a by-product of schooling, it is not the primary goal,” he said.

A trial of longer school days will begin in New South Wales later this year, and schools can apply to take part.

Here’s what a new school routine might look like and what to eliminate first.

Where do the hours come from?

The school day as we know it today dates back to 1880.

Section 128 of the NSW Public Instruction Act states that pupils must assemble in the recreation yard at 8.45am, before lessons start at 9.00am before being dismissed at 3.20pm.

The law provides for a recess of 10 minutes at 10.30 a.m. to be spent in the playground.

Although some schools have since adopted their own schedules, the law still forms the foundation of school operation today.

students entering school with backpacks
Section 128 of the Education Act governs school start and end times.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

More than 140 years later, society has changed.

For starters, the pre-federation single-earner family dynamic has been transformed.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last June revealed that almost 70% of “couple families” – formed around two people in a relationship who usually live in the same house – both partners worked.

Meanwhile, about 15% of all families were single-parent households, which can add another layer to the stress of balancing school and work obligations.

The ABS data estimated that there were around 416,000 single-parent families with dependents where the parent worked.

Of these, more than 78% were single mothers living with dependents.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the school day should not be set in stone.

“Our society is constantly changing, and it’s vital that we keep up with the changes, especially when it comes to education,” she said.

“The government is always looking for ways to improve the lives of families, and extra flexibility in schools is something that will help.”

woman wearing glasses smiling
Ms Mitchell says it is important for education to keep up with societal changes.(Facebook: Sarah Mitchell MLC)

Balancing childcare and learning

One of the drivers of the Prime Minister’s argument is to make school more compatible with modern lifestyles.

But for one expert, this raises a question: what is school for?

Don Carter, senior lecturer in education at the University of Technology Sydney, said the answer should be placed before debates over hours.

He said: “Is the school there as a child care facility for the parents to release them to go to work? Are they now medical distribution sites or are they learning?”

Dr Carter, a former teacher and department head, said detailed research into how students learn best should inform decisions.

“It may be that in the morning some age groups are considering doing some of the particular key learning areas like English and math, literacy and numeracy and then moving on to other types of learning areas. key learning and afternoon activities.

“It needs to be refined, it needs to be nuanced and it needs to be based on those age groups rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Yesterday, Mr. Perrottet acknowledged that a tailored approach would be needed for any change.

Some schools do things differently

Merrylands East Public School in Sydney’s south-west changed its hours from 8am to 1.15pm ten years ago.

The change was in response to a poll showing that 72% of parents supported the change.

The school has a recess break and no lunch break but offers the same amount of instruction.

“It’s been pretty good, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about changing and going back because it’s part of the school culture now,” principal John Goh said.

a man watching
Mr Gough says the change in the school day allows students to pursue other activities.(Provided: Edmund RIce College)

Edmund Rice College, a Catholic secondary school for boys near Wollongong, has moved to an 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. day for all pupils after extensive consultation.

“It’s always been a positive for our school and it’s a point of difference that works for us,” said principal Stephen Gough.

“They are actually able to engage in a way that maximizes their classroom learning time.”

Mr Gough said this leaves students with more time to pursue extracurricular activities, including part-time work, representative work and after-school study groups.

He said teachers had noticed pupils “switching off” later in the day, especially in the summer.

students wearing student masks
Pupils in France go to school for eight hours starting at 8:00.(Facebook: International Hermitage School)

What about other countries?

What a school day looks like depends on where you live – and more flexible arrangements can be found abroad.

Brazil, China, South Africa, and South Korea have back-to-school hours ranging from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

In France, students are in school for eight hours from 8:00 on certain days, but most have Wednesday afternoons off.

Long lunch breaks allowing students to return home to eat with their families are built into many school timetables in Japan and Spain.

Students in South Korea receive lunch, with the school open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

About Donnie R. Losey

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